BRIGHT SPOTS

Improved Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

This month’s Bright Spot comes from Amanda Lopez, a school counselor at the Hallen School. Amanda describes a school-wide system in which students are taught expected behaviors and earn behavior-specific praise and rewards for engaging in them.

What were students with disabilities able to achieve?

Students at the Hallen School have met school-wide behavior expectations with greater consistency and have demonstrated less problematic behaviors throughout the school day. According to data collected on the School Wide Information System (SWIS) on pbisapps.org, referrals for inappropriate behaviors have decreased by 23.8% from September 2018 to April 2019 when compared to the same time span last year.

What practices or systems made this possible?

A school-wide behavior matrix that details the school-wide behavior expectations of being Safe, Organized, Accountable, and Respectful is used in the school. When students demonstrate the associated behaviors they can earn up to four points per period, or thirty-two points per day. The Hallen School uses the PBIS Rewards app, and students can use their points to shop in the school store and gain access to the school game lounge.

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

When schools design a behavior matrix with clear expectations, and have a clear, consistent method for encouraging students to demonstrate the expected behaviors, student outcomes improve. As demonstrated in this bright spot, students who understand what is expected and can demonstrate those behaviors will spend more time in class, leading to better academic outcomes.

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This month’s Bright Spot comes from Karen Butler, a Special Education teacher at Scarsdale High School, who recently participated in an RSE-TASC training on transition assessments.

What were students with disabilities able to achieve?

District-wide, students with disabilities are developing self-determination skills, primarily by helping each other.  Juniors and seniors who have disabilities are volunteering their time to meet with elementary-aged students, also with disabilities.  According to Ms. Butler, the younger students have become more knowledgeable and comfortable with who they are, and the older students are gaining confidence in talking about their disabilities and needs, as well as the strategies they use to manage or overcome them.  Ms. Butler noted that learning to advocate at a young age has helped students better advocate for themselves in college.

What practices or systems made this possible?

Mrs. Butler described a district-wide system where students help each other to develop self-determination skills.  Under the guidance of Resource Room teachers, juniors and seniors with disabilities volunteer and meet with a group of elementary-aged students at an event held at the elementary school.  They discuss their own experiences with having disabilities, sharing their strengths and passions, as well as their challenges and solutions.  The younger students are encouraged to ask questions.

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

Students can develop self-determination skills by helping each other.  Beginning the process early, in elementary school, benefits younger and older students alike.

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